One of the most highly advanced options for chronic pain management, spinal cord stimulation involves the application of an incredibly small “current” directly to the spinal column through the use of a small generator. The pulses that the generator emits interfere with the transmission of “pain impulses” within the spinal cord, thereby interrupting the feeling of pain. Similar in concept to a cardiac pacemaker, patients have the spinal stimulator implanted immediately underneath the skin with the use of local anesthetic and sedatives. Before implanting a generator, physicians generally perform a temporary test of the treatment by using a trial generator that emits pulses through the skin (or, transcutaneous placement of temporary leads into the epidural space). Generally, fifty percent (50%) or more of the patients that have the temporary spinal cord stimulator trial can anticipate excellent relief. If a patient receives this outstanding pain relief, then he / she can opt for the permanent implant. Once again, the permanent iimplant is gently inserted immediately underneath the skin above the buttocks or in other areas, and thin coated wires connect the generator to the spinal column. The stimulator allows for outstanding pain control for selected patients WITHOUT the need for extensive spinal surgery (such as spinal fusion or repeat spinal fusion).
The generator produces different pulse strengths as well as different pulse patterns, and patients work with their physicians to decide on the optimal strength and pattern for their individual situations. Usually, patients use the spinal cord stimulator for several hours each day. Most patients report a soothing tingling sensation while using the stimulator, which replaces the continuous feeling of pain.
Spinal cord stimulation treats a variety of conditions, such as sciatica (radiculopathy), failed back surgery syndrome, and other forms of chronic or complex regional pain. Some patients with intractable angina, diabetic neuropathy, phantom limb (amputation related pain), and multiple sclerosis have pursued spinal stimulation on an investigational basis. Researchers have shown that more than half of the individuals who try spinal cord stimulation report pain reduction or temporary relief. Those interested in the technique should discuss the possibility with their physician and understand the risks and potential benefits before undergoing any procedures.
About the Author
One of the most prominent pain management specialists in the State of Nevada, Dr. Daniel Batlan serves patients through his practice: Specialized Pain Management. Dr. Batlan is a Diplomate of the National Board of Medical Examiners, the American Academy of Pain Management, and The American Board of Anesthesiology. A graduate of The Loyola University of Chicago School of Medicine, Dr. Daniel Batlan pursued postgraduate training in Anesthesiology and Pain Management at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, respectively. You can learn about Dr. Batlan and Specialized Pain Management at his website.